BY ELIZABETH NOLAN
For Salt Spring Arts
Artists living on the southern Gulf Islands have the opportunity to share their creative vision with thousands of viewers over the next year in a public-facing exhibition located right in the heart of Ganges.
Salt Spring Arts is inviting proposals for the 2023 Art on the Hall mini-murals project up until the end of this month. The murals are produced on 4X8-foot sheets of plywood and will be prominently displayed on Mahon Hall’s main exterior wall. Installation is timed to coincide with the annual Spring Art Show. The murals stay on exhibit throughout the summer and fall to greet visitors to the Artcraft show, plus anyone else passing through downtown Ganges.
Salt Spring artist Patrick McCallum, whose mural was selected for the 2022 Art on the Hall exhibit, observed successful applicants are awarded an honorarium and get to keep the piece after the exhibit season. On top of the incredibly valuable exposure, all of this makes it a terrific opportunity for emerging and established artists alike.
“You have 32 square feet, seen over 300 days by literally thousands of people, mounted eight feet up on the side of an iconic building in the heart of Ganges, and they pay you. What more do I need to say?” McCallum asked.
In his view, however, these significant perks are only part of the reward. Even just preparing a proposal can stretch the artist in positive ways, since many people are not used to working at such a large scale or with that type of viewing experience in mind.
“When you’re painting something that’s four by eight feet, you can’t just take your smaller painting and scale it bigger — it’s a completely different experience,” McCallum explained. “Your idea has to be strong, your concept has to be strong and it can’t be highly detailed because it’s hanging up in the air. If you’re not a muralist you’ll have to rethink your entire process, so as an artist it challenges you to be creative in so many ways.”
Past Art on the Hall participants have certainly been creative in their approach. Rosie Schinners, who primarily works in collage, successfully presented one of her vibrant designs on a weather-proofed plywood base for the 2021 project.
“It’s definitely a good experience if you’ve been thinking about exploring your work in a different way,” Schinners said, adding, “If you’re interested in murals, in general it’s a good bridge to get to that place. It’s not a full-sized mural so it’s more manageable.”
As someone who had recently moved to Salt Spring, having the mini mural helped introduce Schinners’ unique visual style to the local community and to the arts council itself. Salt Spring Arts went on to commission Schinners for a “portrait” of Mahon Hall.
“Having the exposure to the community right down in Ganges was definitely big,” Schinners said.
Artists who are thinking about submitting a mural proposal are invited to take the theme of the 2023 Spring Art Show as a jumping-off point. This year’s event is a border-crossing collaboration between Salt Spring Arts, the San Juan Islands Museum of Art and ArtSpring called Archipelago — Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea. McCallum, who is curating the show with Richard Steel, suggested thinking about the Salish Sea’s extended island arts community as a group of people who have sought a quiet haven to unlock their voice.
The deadline for proposal submission is Feb. 28. All of the details and the online form are here.